DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Sprint Cup Drivers Council will meet Thursday night with large packs and safety on the agenda.
That might seem appropriate at Daytona International Speedway, but this discussion with NASCAR officials won’t center on the tight clusters of cars clogging the banking of the 2.5-mile track.
The topic, instead, will be the large throngs of people mingling in the pits before Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 in the wake of a prerace pit atmosphere at Sonoma Raceway that seemed less than orderly for some.
“I thought that the security on pit road (at Sonoma) was pretty bad during prerace, and we’ll talk about that some,” council member Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Thursday afternoon before practice. “Some of the drivers were concerned with how messy that’s getting, considering what’s going on and when we’re trying to get in the cars. It was pretty crazy down there.
“It’s great to see that much energy, but some tracks seem to be able to corral it and control it better and give the crews their space to work around the cars and so forth. So that’s something I think some of the drivers are real concerned with; nothing too out of the ordinary that is going to change the sport too much.”
Fellow Drivers Council member Denny Hamlin also said that Sonoma “was a mess to say the least.
“It was hard to even just walk to your car, and it’s a very small pit road,” Hamlin said. “There’s some things that definitely could get done. I think really each team should have a 10-foot square space around their car that is designated for just driver and team. I think we definitely could work on that. I think a lot of tracks are working on that.”
Hamlin raised the possibility that a fan could put a car out of compliance in a manner that NASCAR might suspect a team intentionally had done.
“If they’re monitoring the crew guys touching the car so much before the race, the casual race fan can do just about anything they want to the side of the car,” he said. “It’s really crazy how much I’ve seen guys just fall over the hood of the car and dent it in.
“That’s more an adjustment than any of these crew guys are doing. It’s something that could be addressed and will be addressed. Our fans have all the access they can handle for sure in our sport. As drivers, it’s tough. We want to be polite, sign all the autographs we can, but there’s a point where we have to focus on our job for sure.”
Earnhardt said there weren’t any “big-ticket” items to be hashed out at the meeting, which was the first since April 29 at Talladega Superspeedway. Also on the docket are the future of the Sprint Unlimited (the preseason exhibition event at Daytona will have a new name at a minimum in 2017 because of a new title sponsor) and the Sprint All-Star Race format (which was met with mixed reviews last month).
“A couple of things, but nothing crazy,” Earnhardt said of the topics. “A lot of the stuff that we were loud about earlier and cleaned up and a lot of changes have been made and improvements have been made that the council has wanted.
“The conversation in the council over the last couple of months has actually been real quiet. So this meeting rolled around and has kind of a business as usual feeling to it.”